The Creb Track

Creb Track

 

On our way to Gundaroo, we had the idea of heading back up to Cairns for a couple of reasons. Our idea was to hike/bike the section of the BNT that we had missed up there while we were still fit and before we found jobs and started to pay rent! Our plans came into fruition, and we left the boys in a 60 acre paddock with sheep for company – we would know whether they could handle the cold temperatures by the time we got back and whether they would need constant rugging or not.

 

We took all the gear we might need for our hike with us, and in between catching up with family and friends, we prepped ourselves and borrowed some bikes. Gav, Rob and Indy drove us up to Ayton where we had made the decision to float around to Mossman as the rivers were too high to cross after Cyclone Ita. After smoko, we got on our bikes and rode to the start of the creb track. Rob and Gav then picked up our bikes with the plan of meeting us on the other side of the daintree river in a couple of days time.

 

On our own again, we were greeted by a steady uphill but at the top were the most magnificent views over the rainforest, the river and the ocean. We continued walking along a dirt road and ran into lots of cars travelling in and out – some locals, some visiting the roaring meg waterfalls. We were surprised by the number of people that we saw! We stopped for some lunch which was a novelty for us – normally we continue to camp so that the horses are carrying load for less time, and so they get more time to eat. Shoes back on and the first couple of steps were a bit wincy with some new blisters starting, but we made it to camp in good time, and found a lovely little spot next to a creek. We could see evidence of Carol and the boys, and Jackie and Gibbo, both who had camped with their horses on their journeys north and south respectively. We spent the afternoon with our feet in the river which was lovely and cool, until we looked at the sky which was threatening rain. We set up camp before the light sprinkle started and managed to keep everything nice and dry.

 

Shoes on (with tape over those newly formed blisters) and we were packed up in 20 minutes after breaky and on our way to complete our 25km day. The night before we had been trying to send a message from our sat phone to let Gav know we were travelling well, but found out our credit had expired. All we could do was keep going and hope we would run on time and Gav would show up at the other end like we had discussed! We wandered along as the track deteriorated and ended up in washouts and step ups and downs – there were signs informing 4WDs that they were not allowed in and in case of a vehicle getting stuck, there would be no rescue attempt. if found, there would be a on the spot $2000 fine. Despite the closure, we saw multiple vehicles heading through the track which was pretty slippery from the recent rain. Wandering along the track, we were talking about gav and the Sat phone – no joke, we walked around a corner to find a free to landline telephone sitting by the side of the track. Wondering if it was an illusion, we picked up the phone, dialled Gav who picked up – we couldn’t stop laughing in amazement! We had one hill which took about 20 minutes to climb and 30 to descend, but it was pretty smooth sailing. We hit camp by 3 o’clock and decided to park about 5m above the river which was only ankle deep at the crossing. I peeled off my shoes to find some pretty nice blisters – the one on my R little toe was actually the size of my little toe. I decided to burst it and tape it the next day which was alot more pleasant than trying to fit my foot back into my shoe.

 

Overnight it rained. And rained. At one point I wondered whether I was getting wet, but decided there was nothing I could do about it so I just went back to sleep. Morning came and we peeked out the tent to find the creek lapping the bottom of the tent, and underneath my sleeping mat was a stream of water. We packed up all the wet gear, took our shoes off and walked across the swollen creek – it was now up to my belly button and we had to try and lift our backpacks and keep them out of the water! The track was extremely slippery and we were both glad we brought out hiking poles… despite this, I still ended up on my bum, sliding down 2 of the red clay hills, laughing my head off! The last challenge of the creb track was to cross the daintree river, which is well known for its huge crocodiles. We scanned the crossing quickly, decided the water was too shallow, clear and moving too quickly for the crocs and proceeded to cross the knee deep crossing no worries at all.

 

From there we switched to bikes for the 45km ride into Mossman. Despite the headwind, rain and flat tire I got 4 km out of Mossman (it was a hard slog from there) we made it. Itis a pretty good feeling knowing that the BNT is now complete up to Gundaroo… 4300km done and dusted!  

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At the start of the Creb track

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One of the many creeks along the way

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Selfie!

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Random phone in the middle of the bush

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The river before it rose

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It was pretty slippery!

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The daintree crossing

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Indy dog lending a helping hand

Book 9 – Gundaroo

Beginning of Book 9 to Gundaroo

We had 4 rest days with the McCourts, the section coordinators around Shooters Hill. We spent hours chatting everything from family to the obvious – horses and the trail. The horses had a much needed rest and filled up on hay and water whilst the temperatures rose slightly. We are so grateful to Hazel and Martin, and are sure that we will remain great friends.

A highlight of our rest days was our little treasure hunt. We got a message from Di and Judy (the walkers we met in the Wang) which told us they had skipped ahead to Canberra because of the cold weather. They also said that we were more than welcome to their food drop, and gave instructions on where to find it. So all 4 of us set out to find this package. We hunted high and low in pine forests with LOTS of tree stumps… we finally stumbled along the correct one and with a cry of “Found It” we loaded it into the car. I couldn’t wait to open it and explore the contents – even though it was dehydrated food, it was different, and it was exciting.

While on our rest days, we decided that as the temperatures had dropped and the weather was on and off rainy, we were going to try and carry rainsheets/winter rugs for the boys to help them out through the next section. To do this, one of us had to be off walking at all times, and the 2nd riding horse now became a pack horse, carrying the extra weight on his saddle. We also knew that we wouldn’t be on the road for much longer as we had to find somewhere to stop, live and work while winter passed and we waited for the snow to melt on the Snowy mountains.

Hazel rode out with us for an hour or so, then left us with the promise of dropping out to see us while we were still in their section. The next day as we headed off, the rain started… and continued all the way to camp. It was a wet, soggy walk and we were happy to be greeted by a hut. It even had an undercover parking space for the ponies so our gear stayed relatively dry while we unpacked. It was cold, rainy, and there wasn’t a lot of feed, so we were so grateful when we saw a car pull up – it was Hazel bearing Hay and horse feed. If the boys are happy, so are we.

As luck would have it, it was sunny the next morning so we packed up and headed towards Taralga. Again, we are so grateful to the people along the way as the boys were offered a big paddock over night, outside which we found our first BNT granite marker for the whole trip! We hit Taralga the weekend of the Working Dog show, which was great for some entertainment on our day off. We had a visit from Di and Judy who had finished their walk, and were heading up to do another walk on their way home. Our rest day was rainy and wet, but as we headed off towards Crookwell, the sun popped out for us. Half way into the day we made the decision to push all the way through to Crookwell in one day, which made it a 42 Km day. Half way through the day, the horses all got swapped over.  After the halfway point, it was like Dusty knew that he had to pull the rest of us and the boys to camp. He put his head down and did not slow up from his 6.3km an hour walk for the whole 21 km. It was amazing to watch him and just gives me goosebumps thinking about how much effort and work that horse has put into our trip. He is the ever reliable one, and seems to know when he has to dig deep and pull everyone else along. He is one amazing horse. We arrived at crookwell and were put up in the bull shed – nice and dry. It also happened to be the weekend of the Brew and Bake Festival and there were hundreds of caravans there, so we headed over for all you can eat camp oven dinner and the biggest camp fire you have ever seen – we were pretty happy. We just happened to be sitting next to Chris, Nigel, Ingrid and Mark who were from Canberra and have relations in Gundaroo. Talk about a small world! They were a great help to us when arriving in Gundaroo organising ourselves, and we greatly appreciate everything they have done for us – they are such kind people!

After a rest and our coldest nights yet at -5 degrees, we woke up to a frost and decided to let that melt before we packed up and head towards Canberra. It was a fairly flat section of trail that travelled past a lot of windmills. We were quite surprised at how far away from them you could hear them… one night we felt like we were camped close to the highways, but after 5 km ride the next morning, we realised it was the windmills making all of the noise.

This part of Australia has so much history – we were riding past buildings that we hundreds of years old! It’s a pretty special part of Australia with lots of fertile pockets of land. No wonder our forefathers decided to grow sheep and potatoes here!

2 nights out of Gundaroo we arrived at camp to find it dry. The boys had had a good drink about 3 kms earlier and the temps were quite cool, and we were promised water 2km down the road in the morning by the guidebook. So we camped dry. As luck would have it, a lovely lady we met by the side of the road text her friends who decided to come out for a visit – with hay, and a tank full of water of the back of their ute! Talk about trail angels. The horses were happy with the drink they got, and it turned out well as the water promised by the guidebook had been fenced off onto someone’s land. Steve and Tracey stayed for a while for a chat, and came up with lots of offers of short term agistment while we found somewhere for our horses to live, which we are so grateful for.

Riding into Gundaroo we kept thinking about what we were going to do for the winter. We knew we had to get our car down here, so that was our first priority. We turned up in Gundaroo, settled the horses in, then headed up to the Gundaroo Pub – If you need to know anything in town, the local pub is where you will find it! We found our there was no public transport into Canberra, and couldn’t manage to find someone heading into town the next morning, But Chris and Nigel and Alarna came to our rescue! We met Lamby, a local, who proceeded to call Craig and Shirley (2 BNTers who had obviously made an impression on the locals and were still in touch with many of them) and we chatted to them for an hour or so. Lamby then introduced us to Kylie and Jimmy who offered a paddock and a horse truck for us to camp in, which we happily accepted while we sorted our lives out. We still cannot believe the generosity of people.

So it looks like we are in Gundaroo for the winter, and now just need to find somewhere to live and work…..

4150km down ….

 

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Undercover Horse parking!

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Welcome to the Blue mountains

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leaving Shooters Hill

 

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Almost at Gundaroo

 

 

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Dusty Checking out the view

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Lots of Windmills

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Taralga

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Almost at Taralga

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Our first BNT granite marker

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Wandering along the road

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Ready to head off!

Gundy to the end of Book 9!

Gundy to the end of Book 9 (Jenolan Caves)

We had a very restful break in Gundy, although it was very wet. We caught the tail end of the big weather system that flooded a lot of the Hunter Valley – our thoughts go out to all the people that were affected by the devastating weather.  After 5 days relaxing and eating grass (and trying to get out the rain) the boy were ready to head off again. Thank you to the Gundy community, especially Ian and Caroline, for their hospitality and the shelter with toilets and showers – it was much better that camping out in the rain!

On the road again, and out first day was into Aberdeen and the end of book 8. A beautiful sunny day greeted us, but it wasn’t smooth sailing the whole way across. The day followed a road most of the way with a slight detour through a stock route – along the way we found a locked gate on one end of the route.  Instead of turning back and heading along a very treacherous section of road, we decided to undo the fence (and re-do it back up again of course) and avoid the big trucks and blind corners.  We travelled past some of the most expensive thoroughbred studs in Australia, and the amount of money in these properties just blew our minds. Between the vast amount of land, fancy fences and multiple entrances depending on what horse you were bringing to the property i think our jaws were dragging on the ground for kilometres.  We made it to Aberdeen and were greeted by Tony and Ali, and shared a lovely meal and good company.

Up bright and early, we ventured into Book 9 and we had a fairly uneventful day across to Manobalai TSR, although Laurie, who is our most experienced cow horse, decided that cows that were black and white weren’t normal! After a couple of snorts and shies, he sorted himself out and decided they weren’t going to eat him. We had a rest day at the TSR as there was a lovely big paddock for the horses to run around in and a beautiful big river. We had many visitors – Belinda Ritchie came and camped with us ( a previous BNTer who completed the trip solo a couple of years ago) and we ventured across the river to have a lovely night with the coordinators Rosemary and Neil. Rosemary and Neil have been so unbelievably helpful and generous towards us – we can’t thank them enough! After Belinda took off home, Nick, the president of the BNT turned up and we to meet him (finally!) We had lots to talk about, and it was great to be able to put a face to the name!

The next day we were greeted with warm hospitality at the Sandy Hollow Caravan park where the boys had to share a paddock with sheep – again some snorts and funny looks before they quickly return their attention to the grass. From there it was an absolutely stunning trip through Widden Valley and up over into the Capertee Valley. By far, one of our favourite campsites was up at Grassy Hut – behind the shed which had a water tank was a rocky out crop which acted as a natural lookout over the spectacular valley below. We spent hours up there reading books and taking in the view, and returned up there in the morning to enjoying out breakfast while watching the sun rise over the misty valley. Down a fairly steep and slippery hill and we were greeted by Bruce who owns a large chunk of the valley. He offered us a paddock and dropped some beers, steak and veggies off…. Greatly appreciated after our long stint away from real food. We were visited by Lee who brought horse feed and human food as well – we are so spoilt out here. We spent a lovely afternoon chatting about packing and riding this section of the trail as Lee had done this section previously.

Over Baal Bone Gap we went – Mater was not impressed with the size of the hill and as he was loose, he kept stopping and looking at us as if to say are you serious? He would then wait until we were just out of sight, then come bounding up beside us, just to stop and have a breather again! Luckily with all the rain around water was abundant, but grass was not, so we continued on the next day. Over Sandstone outcrops – a 4WDers paradise – and through some scrubby bush we went. We had 3 nail biting experiences on this day before hitting Wallerwang. All I can say is thank god we put road nails in the shoes (tungsten tipped) – even with these in I was watching Laurie carrying Preston and Bundi carrying the pack wheel spinning trying to get purchase on the slippery rock and all I could think about was ‘I have to follow them up there’. They made it safely to the top, I pointed Mater to the tiny path of dirt at the side of the sandstone, gave him his head and apart from almost being removed from my seat by a tree branch, we all made it up safely. The next experience was as we came out onto the road into Wallerwang we thought we would be smart and cross a boggy creek instead of walking all the way around … The horses felt the soft ground up into their groins and lept through the creek and out the other side, and we were all safe and sound. The last part of the day was into Wallerwang along the highway – they have planted trees and have not left a lot of room for us…. Trying to lead 3 horses around trees, wombat holes (which one did fall over in) and loose wire was frustrating and there were a string of expletives leaving both our mouths. We arrived in the Wang (as the locals call it) exhausted to be met by the lovely Denise, coordinator of this section of the trail. Unfortunately Mal was away working, but I am sure we will catch up with him soon.

Rest day done, sufficient real food in our bellies and hours spent in a coffee shop revitalised us and we were off towards the Jenolan caves. We met Di and Judy, who were walking from the Wang down to Canberra and had a lovely chat talking dehydrated food and food fatigue which we were suffering from greatly. We followed their footsteps until Hampton, and were left little surprises in the way of dehydrated food J They left the trail at Hampton as it was starting to get cold, and it was blowing a gale. One day I lost my hat about 10 times – luckily the horses just stood as I dropped the reins/lead ropes and ran after my hat! We had a lovely meal at the Rydal pub with Lee, Scott, Margie and Greg – great stop and lovely hospitality, we highly recommend it… one of our favourite pubs so far! The wind finally died down, but the temperatures dropped, and on our last day to the end of Book 9, at 1pm in the afternoon, it started snowing. The horses didn’t even bat an eyelid and forged ahead to camp where we welcomed into the house by the McCourts. It was a very long day spent wearing almost all of the clothes we owned and we were getting off to walk to try and keep warm. We sat almost on top of the fire all night as we tried to warm ourselves… A long, cold day and we were utterly exhausted. We are planning a couple of rest days here, waiting for the cold front to pass over us hopefully!!!

Over 3800kms done and into Book 10 ……

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camp at Rylstone

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Walking through the pine forests – almost felt like deliverance day in some sections

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Dusty heading to camp with snowflakes on his neck

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Just pulled up at camp at Manobalai

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On our way to Sandy hollow

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On our way to sandy hollow

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There were some sections of road that were very narrow and not alot of fun

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Into the widden valley

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Some of the locals at a thoroughbred stud

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one of the huts we got to stay in

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Rat proofing our gear (which didnt work as well as we would have liked)

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waiting for preston to clear the log out of out path

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some of the spectacular sandstone outcrops

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Grassy hut

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Stop for a drink

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Through the capertee valley

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Up and over the southern side of Baal Bone gap

 

 

Red Hill to Gundy

We hit 3500km! And we have made it as far as Gundy in the last 10 days. We were lucky enough to have a little visitor and have backup for this section, so we were able to power through the kilometres! Heading out from Kangaroo Flat, we felt the temperature drop and spent the first couple of nights camping at about 1300m, the temps were down around 3-5 degrees. It was a nice tester for us as it is just going to get colder from here! New Country Swamp was a cute little campsite with fires, firewood and a toilet – such luxury. We headed out the next day to cover the 30km to Ivans Dam. Unfortunately we found out that the camp no longer existed as the forestry has been logging there, but the supervisor was kind enough to take the time to look for a new camp for us! We ended up camping on the side of the road and walking 600m to water, which was not great but better than the alternative, which was riding another 25km. We saw our first wombat in this section, and thankfully the horses handled it well and were fine after a quick look and a snort. They, however, didn’t handle the wombat road kill as well…. I will admit they look at bit scary with 4 paws in the air and mouth open. There were hundreds of wombat holes at the next camp on Topdale road, but the feed was amazing. From there we headed across to a camp called Ponderosa Park through all of the old pines trees which were a little eerie with the fog that rolled through in the morning. Next stop was Nundle, a cute little town that is totally funded by tourism around their arts and wool mill. The pub did fantastic meals, and we had a great rest day exploring the town.

The Nundle area is very dry, and normally green, rolling hills were brown and hayed off. There was no water at the next camp so we climbed over Crawneys pass and found water at the bottom on the other side – in the Upper Hunter region! Ian, the station owner, brought us a dozen eggs, so we had an amazing omlete for dinner that night! The next 2 days took us through Timor and through to Gundy – we are definitely in horse country now and some of the money around here is just incomprehensible. But our regular old trail ponies aren’t snubbed by all the expensive horses – they all still come running to the fences to say hello! The heat has returned with some 30 degree days, but I think that will be short lived. We have shelter and showers in Gundy, and will take a couple of days off to shoe horses and organise the next book – we are 1 days ride away from completing book 8! The impending weather will dictate how long we stay, but I’m sure we will all enjoy the break!

 

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Ebor to Red Hill/Kangaroo Flat Rd

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We had a lovely time in Ebor staying with David and Stephanie. We were so spoilt having a whole house to ourselves, which meant that David and Stephanie didn’t have to deal with our explosion as we organised ourselves for the next section. The boys couldn’t believe their eyes with the amount and sweetness of the grass…. They all exploded in 10 days, putting on so much weight so quickly we had to ask David and Stephanie if we could leave them in the small acre paddock they had and stop rotating them onto the new fresh grass – we weren’t sure that we would be able to ride them as they danced out of town on their new sugar high! As we have slowly come to accept, rest days aren’t really rest days as there are not only a lot of jobs to do, but many new and interesting people to meet everywhere we go! Ebor followed this trend and we spent hours chatting to the locals, catching up with Mushgang – a BNT trekker who has been on the trail for 9 years, meeting Gary – an Englishman who was just about to start on the trail and who by now is well into the first book – and his support team (from Dorrigo) Erica and Graeme, going for cart rides (thanks Christine), seeing and learning about the Guy Fawkes Brumbies and meeting Joy Apps for whom Dan Seymour (the original BNTer) worked after he rode the trail just to name a few.

After we were able to clear some time in our social calendar, we saddled up and rode out towards the Styx River/Point Lookout Camp. I can say for the first time ever on the trail we got lost, on someone’s property. We made the decision to follow a well-used track which headed off somewhat in the wrong direction and between this and the new fences that had been erected on the property, we ended up bush. After having found our way back on track, we arrived to find our camp was a lovely spot, with more clover for the boys, a lovely little stream and some nice caravaners! Jack, the coordinator met us in the afternoon and gave us some great advice about the next section. We endured a chilly night before heading off and being greeted by a looooonnngggg downhill which gave us both sore legs for days. Not the best camp that night, but the next day was a lovely ride along Georges creek before climbing up onto the Armidale Kempsey road. We didn’t reach camp until about 2pm and when we were 200m from camp, it poured down. We were soaked from head to toe (within minutes) so we took a rest day to dry out and wait for the rain to pass before we headed up the Macleay and Kunderang. The campsite was a lovely grassy flat and Neil Booth gave us some great information about riding up the valley – he has been up there more times that he can count, mustering cattle and keeping his stock out of the national park. We managed to keep the inside of the tent dry and get some sleep. We were woken up multiple times during the night to a pesky cow who, despite being chased away with a stock whip, kept trying to get into our gear underneath the tarp. At 3am, I woke to hear the tarp rustle again, so up I got to chase the cow again. As I unzipped the tent, I heard a clang of gear and rustle of the tarp and thought crap, the cow is caught up in the gear, how am I going to fix this? I shone my torch on the cow to find her not tangled up at all, instead, she took one look at me, leant over and picked up one of our riding saddles in her mouth and took off across the flat. My reaction was to yell “f***in cow” and chase her. I am sure I disturbed all of the other campers, but she dropped the saddle and I was able to safely recover all of our gear and shift it to right next door to the tent. I was happy the cow had tried her hardest to no avail, and left us alone for the rest of the night.

After the rain cleared we were able to embark on what, so far, we think is the best bit of the trail. We followed the wide valley of the Macleay river, zig zagging up the river from one side to other of the lovely clear water. We turned off up the Kunderang Brook, and 60 or so crossings later and 2 nights camping in the best huts we have seen (with inside fires) we emerged at Youdales Hut to find that it was a historic hut and we couldn’t camp in it. It had rained all night and was pouring when we arrived at camp. We stopped, unpacked and had lunch, then made the decision to saddle up and keep pushing on to the next camp – the brook had risen over 6 inches in the hour we stopped, and we were a bit concerned about the road out being too slippery as we had to climb 700m in altitude. The boys weren’t happy, but they were brilliant and we hit the next camp at 5pm. A short next day and we were greeted by Louise and Bill at Red Hill and were overwhelmed by their hospitality. We had a great time with them and very much appreciated a warm bed and (short) hot shower as it was still drizzly outside. The boys enjoyed their rest day, watching the cattle being brought in for their drenching and snoozing under the shade of the big tree in their hug paddock. We learnt a lot from Louise and Bill, and I think I could spend years reading all the books that Louise has collected!

The next section we hit the Nundle detour as we can’t head down through the Barrington tops, and end up out at Aberdeen.